A Critical Appraisal of Vascularized Bone Grafting for Scaphoid Nonunion

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Abstract

Background

Vascularized bone grafting (VBG) has the potential to yield reliable results in scaphoid nonunion; however, results across studies have been highly variable. This study critically evaluates surgical techniques, fracture location, and patient selection in relation to radiographic, clinical, and patient-centered outcomes after VBG for scaphoid nonunion.

Methods

We conducted a systematic review of the literature for the use of VBG in scaphoid nonunion. Physical examination, radiographic, and patient-centered outcomes were assessed. Four substratifications were performed: the location of scaphoid nonunion, pedicled versus free technique, Kirschner wire (K-wire) versus screw fixation, and VBG done as a primary versus revision procedure.

Results

A total of 41 publications were included in final analysis. VBG had an 84.7% union rate at 13 weeks after surgery. On an average, 89% of patients returned to preinjury activity levels by 18 weeks after surgery and 91% of patients reported satisfaction with the procedure. Proximal pole nonunions demonstrated similar union rates but lower functionality scores compared with nonunions across all regions of the scaphoid. Pedicled techniques demonstrated slightly improved range of motion compared with free technique. K-wire versus screw fixation demonstrated significantly higher union rates and faster union times. There were no differences in outcomes for VBG done as a primary versus revision procedure.

Conclusion

VBG serves as a viable option for the treatment of scaphoid nonunion, with consistent union rates in addition to significantly improved postoperative patient functionality. The fixation of these vascularized bone grafts with K-wires versus screw fixation may result in superior radiologic outcomes.

Level of Evidence

Therapeutic, Level III, systematic review.

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